Newnan High School

Family Literacy Night connects students with reading

by Rebecca Leftwich


Rebecca Leftwich

A large crowd turned out for Literacy Night at Newnan High School, where events ranged from workshops to presentations by authors, illustrators and poets.

It started with Kelli Sowerbrower’s idea for a book fair at the high school level and blossomed into the Newnan High School-hosted Community Family Literacy Night, a recent event featuring scavenger hunts, art, workshops, poetry and prizes.

“I quickly realized that high schools do not ‘do’ book fairs (but) what happened was bigger and better than I ever imagined,” said Sowerbrower, Newnan High’s literacy coordinator.

Sowerbrower said she wasn’t willing to give up on a book night for adolescents, and with the help of Kathie Vickers, Angie Markham, and Ame Whitlock, Family Literacy Night – an NHS partnership with Smokey Road and Evans middle schools – was born.

Funded by grants and local sponsors, the free event was geared toward engaging students with reading and literature. Mission accomplished, said a trio of Evans students.

“Literacy Night meant everything to me,” Denise Bray, an aspiring writer, said. “It was inspiring and gave me a chance to focus on my writing and feel connected with the authors.”

Naiya Pittman particularly enjoyed Newnan alum Tasha Jones, a slam poet who wowed audiences with her work.

“It was memorable to see so many people who love to read as well as exciting to see all of the authors and students, especially Tasha Jones,” Pittman said.

For Nikki Gray, a highlight was hearing authors’ back stories. 

“Last night was really nice when I saw all of the authors and students coming together and heard why the authors wrote their stories,” she said. “Raine Thomas based some of her books in Newnan and I liked seeing her use regular culture and place it into a fantasy book.”

Grants and donations from local businesses provided guest fees, goody bags, refreshments and photos with Atlanta Braves mascot Homer.

Workshops providing ideas for family literacy activities were a hit as well, according to co-organizer Angie Markham of Smokey Road Middle School.

“Families were excited about the types of strategies that they could incorporate into their everyday home lives,” she said. “Many attendees were truly surprised at the impact just 20 minutes of reading per day can have on you throughout your life.”

The Literacy Night committee – which included Sowerbrower, Markham, Kathie Vickers and Ame Whitlock – was pleased with the effort and already is working on ways to make next year’s event “bigger and better,” Sowerbrower said.

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